History of Surat

History of Surat

01/05/2021 by : Ravi Bhadja
The History of Surat

Surat is a port city in India, formerly known as Suryapur. It is also known by its nicknames as City of the Sun, Diamond City, Silk City and the Bridge City. All these names are associated with one or the other reason and we shall acknowledge all by the course of this article. The History of Surat is quite interesting.

The city centre is located south of the river Tapti, and a moat divides the older parts of the city (narrow streets with congestion) with the newer ones (mainly suburbs). Surat is the second largest city in the state of Gujarat, the first being Ahmedabad. It was selected one of the twenty cities to be developed as a smart city; the city is the first smart IT city in India.

Foundations of Surat:

The foundations of the city are as deep-rooted as the Mahabharata; the name of the city is mentioned in the Sanskrit epic. It is mentioned that Lord Krishna made a stoppage at Surat when he was on his way from Mathura to Dwarka.

According to some local Hindu traditions, a brahman named Gopi is said to have founded the city in the last years of the 15th century. It was him, who named the city as ‘Suryapur’ which means the City of the Sun.

The Era of the Shift of Reigning Powers:

The Rule of the Portuguese:

The major reigning powers on the City of the Sun start from the Portuguese to the English, to Jews and Mughals and finally went under the control of the Indian Republic. In the year 1512 Surat was invaded by the Portuguese. In the following year that is 1513, a famous Portuguese traveller Duarte Barbosa mentioned the city as the most important seaport as it was frequently visited by ships from the entire world. By 1520, the city was re-named as Surat; the Portuguese again invaded in the year 1530.

The Rule of the East India Company on Surat:

In 1608, the East India Company started to arrive at the ports of Surat. By 1615 the East India Company overtook the Portuguese empire and established an English Factory at Surat. This marked the prosperous era in the history of Surat. Many Indian merchant princes started to dock at Surat’s Seaport and the city was made the seat of the presidency of the East India Company.

This era of sheer prosperity started suffering deterioration when Mumbai (then Bombay) came to the English Empire as part of the dowry for Catherine of Braganza’s wedding to Charles II in 1662. Shortly after this, the English set up a factory at Mumbai and Surat began its decline. The population too declined from its height of being 8 lacs to eighty thousand by the year 1687.

The Jewish and The Mughal Reign:

In 1730, a Baghdadi Jew named Joseph Semah came to Surat from Baghdad (Iraq) and founded the Surat synagogue and cemetery; the cemetery is the only thing remaining as the synagogue was demolished.

In these years Surat saw a swift shift of reigning powers. In the year 1733, a Mughal Governor started ruling Surat in the Nawab Style. The British again took over the city in 1759 and the Mughal reign was declared obsolete on 27th February 1763. Finally, on 8th August 1842, it was annexed to British India.

The City of the Sun Came to be known as the Silk City:

By the 20th century, Surat’s population went up to 119,000. A fire and a flood in 1837 had destroyed many parts of the city. But Surat regained its momentum in the 20th century although the shipbuilding was no longer there. Instead, it became the hub of trade and manufacturing of several goods and services. Cotton mills, factories for ginning and pressing cotton, rice-cleaning mills, and paper mills came into existence. Fine cotton goods were woven on hand looms, and there were manufactures of silk brocade and gold embroidery (Zari). This is the reason the city came to be known as the Silk City of India.

How Surat became the Third Cleanest City of India:

In the year 1994, the city suffered a major setback. A combination of heavy rains storms and poor drainage caused the blockage of the city drains and henceforth led to the flooding of the city. An immense loss of life and property was seen. The carcases of dead animals and public wastes were not removed in time, which led to a plague epidemic spread in the city. A loss of life was followed by the epidemic and not only this several countries restricted people on travelling from India to their countries.

The lead was taken by the then municipal commissioner S.R. Rao who provoked people to come together and clean their city. The Initiative that was taken by the commissioner with the people with their hard work in the late 1990s proved to be worthwhile. The city was cleansed and now Surat is known to be the Third Cleanest City of India.

In the present scene, the city is not only clean but also beautiful. Surat is also the hub of Diamond cutting and polishing hence Surat is known as the Diamond heart of the world and the Diamond City. Not just diamonds but the city is also known to produce unmatched textile goods. Corporate industries and information technologies have also boomed in the recent years in the city. The history of Surat indeed makes it what it is today.

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